Staff picks: finding the city’s coolest coffee shops


(Photos by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

By TPN Staff

Although Oakland’s coffee shop scene is dominated by Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, local and independently-owned coffee shops are only a short walk or bus ride away. Pittsburgh has more than merely chains — the city thrives off of independent and local businesses, including coffeehouses.

Editors and writers from The Pitt News have compiled some of their personal favorite coffee shops — and one teahouse — that will help you avoid the national chains.


Taylor Pecarchik / Staff Writer: Redhawk Coffee — Oakland

Among the many coffee chains near campus  — Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Crazy Mocha — a new, independent coffee shop has opened right in Oakland. Braden Walter and Mary Gonzales, husband and wife, began their official coffee business in 2016 with a red and white food truck — a 1969 Boyertown with over 700,000 miles on it.

Over the course of six months, the two worked to renew and reconstruct the food truck. The finished product showed up on the streets of Pittsburgh in September, satisfying the city’s caffeine-deprived and coffee-lovers. After three months of the food truck, Walter and Gonzales decided in December to open up a pop-up location. The location opened in January of this year on Meyran Avenue, named “Redhawk,” after the truck. Walter confirmed that the location will be open at least for the rest of the year.

Redhawk features coffee beans from in and outside of Pittsburgh, from a total of five different roasters. It’s goal is to offer quality coffee that customers can’t get anywhere else. Redhawk also offers homemade pastries and Leona’s ice cream sandwiches. For all you coffee connoisseurs out there, go get a taste of Redhawk for yourself and see what all the talk’s about.

(Photos by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Yuting Xiong / Staff Writer: Constellation Coffee — Lawrenceville

Drinking a hot, caffeinated beverage always makes studying feel more relaxing — especially at Constellation Coffee, which sits at the boundary of Lawrenceville and Bloomfield. Sunlight pours into the large window, taps the flowers at the table and wraps the shop in gold. Students hard-at-work take languid sips of their Dirty Iced Chais and Espresso Cortados in between pages of their textbooks.

The coffee beans — from Ethiopia, Kenya and Guatemala — have just the right balance of acidity. The shop serves minimal yet delicious drinks such as lattes made with maple syrup, almond milk chai lattes, Masala chai, hot chocolate, house coffee and hot cocoa.

Donuts, lemon bars, artisan chocolate, hand pies, cookies, scones  — including mouthwatering white chocolate coconut ones — and a slew of other sweet treats lends the coffee shop its diner vibe. With the right scoop of privacy and simplicity, Constellation Coffee has the recipe for making people starstruck.

(Photos by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Lexi Kennell / Culture Editor: Biddle’s Escape — Wilkinsburg

Whenever I’m looking for a more offbeat coffee-drinking experience, I take the 61B to Regent Square and walk through the residential streets until I find a large yellow and purple-painted house. The coffee shop is named after two condemned prisoners — brothers Jack and Ed Biddle — who escaped Allegheny County Jail in 1902. The origin of the coffee shop’s name only helps in giving Biddle’s Escape its charm.

The coffee shop, in addition to its monumental variety of loose-leaf teas and coffee beans, offers vegan and gluten-free food items as well. But Biddle’s Escape doesn’t stop there — the shop prides itself on its eclectic artifacts and herbal bath and body products.

I’ve visited Biddle’s Escape to catch up with friends, to study alone, to meet with colleagues and even to attend a show featuring local musicians. In addition to two floors that are both decked out with artwork and eccentric furniture, the shop also boasts a pet-friendly outdoor seating area when the weather is nice. So when I want to see some dogs, eat a vegan pastry and drink Rosehip tea, I usually return to Biddle’s Escape, where I can always count on a quirky ambiance and a menu of so many drinks I will never be able to try them all.

(Photos by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Sarah Morris / Staff Writer: Zeke’s Coffee — East Liberty

Zeke’s is the kind of cafe that locals swear by. It sits in the heart of East Liberty, on Penn Ave. where it moved to a few years ago from just across the street. Zeke’s has a cozy feel, making it the perfect spot to nestle into the comfortable seating with your computer or book and stay a while.

But the atmosphere isn’t all Zeke’s has got going for it — the small-batch roastery makes a mean cup of coffee. Be sure to give the cold brew a try. And it doesn’t stop at coffee, which is why Zeke’s is known for being a well-rounded cafe. It has all sorts of food available, from bakery items to heavier fare like quiche and breakfast sandwiches, including a number of vegan and gluten-free options.

Whatever reason you choose to stop by Zeke’s, whether it be for the ambiance, the coffee or just to get to know the city a little better, this cafe should have what you’re looking for.

(Photos by John Hamilton | Editor-In-Chief)

Madeline Barber / Staff Writer: Dobra Tea — Squirrel Hill

Incense. Relaxing. Aesthetic. These words come to mind when I think of Dobra Tea — a little tea shop in Squirrel Hill. While it doesn’t serve coffee, it has a coffee shop atmosphere fitting for students to study or unwind. When I need a break from the hectic day-to-day life in Oakland, I’ll hop on the next 61 bus and head to Dobra, at the corner of Murray Ave. and Beacon St. From the moment you enter the tea shop, you’re surrounded by a sense of bliss and calm — the always-present aromas of Dobra Tea act as a massage for the senses.

Patrons are handed a menu and a little bell to ding when they’ve decided what to order, but with the expansive list of teas and wide variety of snacks they offer, that could take awhile. My go-to is their iced Staroborshov tea — dark oolong with fruit sugar, shaken — or their special Chai, Chai, Chai!!! — an eclectic blend of black Indian teas with steamed milk. If I’m feeling peckish, I’ll go for a plate of dolmas — grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and lemon juice. With my busy schedule, I can never stay long, but the sheer size of Dobra’s menu and the atmosphere ensures I’ll return time and time again.